New Feature: Getting Inspired

28 05 2009

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Have you ever been in a cooking slump and lost all inspiration in the kitchen?  If you’re like most people (including me), you have. I am also guilty on occasion of making my favourite dishes over and over instead of branching out and trying new things. Even the most passionate and innovative cooks can run low on ideas and need something to spark their creativity.  

I’ve prepared a list of my favourite ways to break out of a creative rut: Getting Inspired.  I link to some of my favourite websites, newspapers, restaurants and tv shows.  Perhaps some of these will be helpful and inspirational to you as well!

The page can be found be clicking the link above or on the menu under Pages at the top right of the screen.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t show up on the heading bar due to lack of space.

Enjoy!

Trish

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Asparagus Orzo

27 05 2009

 

Uncooked orzo pasta

Uncooked orzo pasta

Ah, asparagus!  It’s possibly my favourite vegetable and where I live, it’s season is short.  As a result, I eat it almost every day when it’s available.  This, of course, leads my poor husband to comment at dinnertime:  ‘Oh, we’re having asparagus… again…” Luckily, it’s very versatile and can be used in everything from quiches to stir-fries and lasagna.  This simple orzo recipe makes a great spring side dish that goes particularly well with grilled or roasted chicken.

Orzo is a tiny, rice shaped pasta (see photo, above).  The orzo pieces are slightly larger and flatter than rice and are made from durum wheat.  I’ve had trouble finding it on occasion until I realized that some stores stock it with the rice instead of in the pasta section.  You can substitute another small pasta or rice for the orzo but may have to adjust the butter and seasonings.

Whenever I create pasta recipes, I always debate about how many people it serves because North Americans usually eat larger portions of pasta than Italians.  We also tend to eat pasta as a side dish or main course as opposed to a small starter course as the Italians do.  In this case, I divided the recipe into half-cup servings.  The portion size can be adjusted if the orzo is being served as a starter, side dish or main course.

Helpful Tip: Zest the lemon before cutting it open to juice.  You can always add more lemon to taste – I’ve added just enough to brighten up the orzo without making it too lemony.

Asparagus Orzo

Makes approximately 8 half-cup servings

(VEGETARIAN)

  • 1 lb. (454 g) asparagus of medium thickness (equals about 3 cups of cut up asparagus)
  • 1-1/2 cups uncooked orzo
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon (packed) grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup (packed) grated fresh parmesan cheese + extra for garnish
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Trim any woody ends from the asparagus spears and discard.  Cut asparagus into lengths about 1″ long.  Set aside.
  2. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil.  Add orzo.  Cook for two minutes and add asparagus pieces.  Continue to cook for another 5 minutes or until the orzo and asparagus are just tender.
  3. Drain orzo and asparagus mixture and return to pot.  Add butter, lemon juice, lemon zest and grated parmesan.  Stir until thoroughly combined and the butter and parmesan have melted.  
  4. Season with salt and pepper.  Grate extra parmesan over each serving if desired.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy! 

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Happy Anniversary!

27 05 2009

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A year ago today I launched The Seasonal Gourmet.  I was full of ideas but had no previous experience doing anything like this.  It has been a lot of fun and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.  I’ve also been grateful to everyone for their feedback and support.  In the coming year I hope to bring you more great recipes and information about seasonal eating.  I also have a few new ideas that I might be trying out so stay tuned!  

I’d like to thank everyone who has been supportive of me, from trying my ‘experimental’ recipes to giving me ideas and inspiring me.  A very special thanks to Ronnie, Jenn, Allan and Judi for your encouragement. 

Meanwhile, to celebrate The Seasonal Gourmet’s first year, here are the top five most popular posts from the last 12 months:

Top Five Most Popular Posts – May 2008 to May 2009

5.  Peach Chutney

This summery condiment was first posted last August and has gotten a steady stream of hits ever since.  It’s a great accompaniment to grilled meats so give it a try once peaches come back into season!

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4.  Caprese Salad

Another popular summer dish, my post on caprese salad was more of a guideline to presenting caprese salad in creative ways than an actual recipe.  A well-made insalata caprese with in-season tomatoes is a classic for a reason – it’s simple and delicious.

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3.  Sausage and Mushroom Lasagna

I posted this lasagna in November and it proved popular through the winter when people were craving hearty comfort food.  It’s a bit heavy for summer but do try it once the weather turns cool again – it’s divine.

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2. Leek and Ham Tart

This savoury pie is a great dish at any time of the day, from breakfast to dinner. Served with a salad or fresh fruit, it’s an elegant dish that can be made in advance so it’s ideal for casual brunches.

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And the number one most popular post this year…..

1.  Braised Short Ribs

Hands down, this was the runaway hit recipe of the past year by a 2 to 1 margin. And with good reason – the ribs are absolutely delicious.  It’s ideal for winter entertaining because it can be made in advance and actually tastes even better the second day.

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Thanks for your support and here’s looking forward to another delicious year!

Cheers,

Trish





Grilled Asparagus with Herbed Goat Cheese and Prosciutto

21 05 2009

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The weather is starting to warm up and the season for outdoor entertaining has begun.  Grilling is a popular way to cook main courses such as chicken, burgers or steaks but you can make appetizers on the grill as well.  These asparagus spears wrapped in goat cheese and prosciutto make an elegant starter that will impress your guests.  There are a number of steps but they are very straightforward. The wrapped asparagus spears can be prepared in advance and only need a couple of minutes on the BBQ.

Use the fattest asparagus spears you can find – the pencil-thin ones won’t work for this dish.  Prosciutto is an Italian cured ham that is available in many supermarkets. Ask at the deli counter and make sure they slice it very thinly.  You can substitute Spanish serrano or other cured hams.  For the cheese, you can use a soft goat cheese, cream cheese or mascarpone.  Each one has a slightly different flavour but all will be delicious. The asparagus spears can also be cooked on an indoor grill if you don’t have access to an outdoor BBQ.

Helpful tip: if you want to zest a lemon for garnish, be sure to zest it before cutting the lemon open to juice it. To get more juice from your lemon, roll it on the counter, pressing down gently on the lemon as you roll. This helps break down the inside a bit so it’s easier to extract the juice.

Grilled Asparagus with Herbed Goat Cheese and Prosciutto

Makes 10 asparagus spears

  • 10 fat asparagus spears
  • 10 slices cured ham such as prosciutto or serrano, sliced very thinly
  • Lemon zest for garnish (optional)

Herbed Cheese:

  • 3 Tablespoons (about 2-1/2 oz) soft cheese such as goat cheese, cream cheese or mascarpone – at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme 
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • A dash of salt and pepper

Lemon-Oil:

  • 1 Tablespooon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tablespoon neutral oil such as canola or safflower
  • 1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard

To prepare asparagus:

  1. Trim any woody ends and discard.  Prepare a large bowl of ice water and set aside.  In a large saucepan, add enough water to just cover asparagus and bring to a boil.  Cook asparagus for about 2-1/2 to 3 minutes, until it is just tender.  
  2. Drain and plunge immediately into the ice water to halt cooking.  Let asparagus cool completely, drain and pat dry.

To make herbed cheese:

  1. Spoon room-temperature goat, cream cheese or mascarpone cheese into a small bowl.  Add chive, thyme, lemon juice salt and pepper.  Use a fork to mix herbs into cheese until thoroughly combined.  Cheese can be made in advance and refrigerated until use.  Bring back to room temperature before using.

To prepare lemon oil:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, oil and mustard until combined.

Putting it all together:

  1. Lay out prosciutto slices in a single layer.  Scoop a small amount of herbed cheese (about 3/4 teaspoon) and spread it in a thin layer on a prosciutto slice as though buttering a piece of bread.  Repeat for all slices.  
  2. Wrap each slice of prosciutto around an asparagus spear, starting at the bottom of the spear.  Make sure the cheese side is against the asparagus – it will act like ‘glue’ to help the prosciutto stick.  Appetizers may be prepared to this point and refrigerated until ready to use.
  3. Prepare grill or light barbeque.  Brush each wrapped asparagus spear with the lemon-oil and grill until the prosciutto begins to get crispy around the edges, about 2 minutes.  Turn over with tongs and grill for another 2 minutes.
  4. Arrange on a platter and garnish with lemon zest if desired.  They are meant to be eaten as finger food but they can be plated and eaten with a fork if you’d prefer.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Farmer’s Markets – Summer 2009

19 05 2009

Seattle Farmers Market

It’s farmer’s market season again!  Within the next two to three weeks, most seasonal farmer’s markets in North America will open for the summer.  In many areas there’s not a lot available yet but soon the stalls will be overflowing with fresh fruit and vegetables.  

Cookbook author Anita Stewart has compiled a list of the top Canadian farmer’s in this month’s Canadian Geographic magazine. Her picks include the Halifax Farmer’s Market, Saskatoon Farmer’s Market and Trout Lake Farmer’s Market in Vancouver. Click here to read the article in its entirety: Top Ten Canadian Farmer’s Markets.

In the United States, Santa Monica Farmer’s Market and St. Paul’s Farmer’s Market in Minnesota are just two great examples of what shoppers can expect at local markets. Read more about America’s Best Farmer’s Markets at msnbc.com.

Of course these lists are very subjective so take them with a grain of salt if your favourite market isn’t mentioned.  To find a list of markets in your area, a quick Google search should point you in the right direction (this site gets hits from readers around the world so unfortunately I couldn’t begin to list all the resources for every area).  As more people become interested in eating local and seasonal foods, farmer’s markets will continue to grow and flourish, which benefits us all.  It’s a great alternative to shopping strictly at supermarkets and big box stores and the whole family can get involved.

To get the most out of your farmer’s market experience, check out a recent article I wrote for Suite 101.com: How to Shop at a Farmer’s Market.  I offer some suggestions for enjoying your time at the market and making the experience hassle-free and enjoyable.

Be sure to check back throughout June, July and August for regular market reports about what is in season plus tips and recipes to make the most of summer’s bounty.

See you at the markets this summer!

Trish





Caesar Cocktail

15 05 2009

iStock_000005681745XSmallAlmost everyone is familiar with a Bloody Mary – a tomato juice based cocktail that is popular on brunch menus across North America.  However, there is a uniquely Canadian cocktail that is similar to a Bloody Mary but (in my humble opinion) is even better.  The Bloody Caesar (or Caesar) was invented in 1969 by bartender Walter Chell in Calgary, Alberta.  The ingredients sound a bit odd – clamato juice (clam juice + tomato), vodka, worcestershire sauce, tabasco and celery salt – but the sum is greater than the parts.  A properly mixed caesar is a thing of beauty and is perfect for a summer barbeque or brunch party.  

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the caesar’s invention, the Westin Calgary is hosting a celebration.  For $199 (CDN) a night double occupancy, you can stay at the hotel and indulge in caesar-inspired drinks and appetizers.  For those of us who can’t make it to Calgary, caesars are easy to make at home and the perfect tipple to celebrate the Victoria Day long weekend. In Canada, Mott’s Clamato juice can be found in virutally any grocery store and many liquor stores even sell pre-mixed caesars in bottles.  In the United States, clamato can sometimes be found at supermarkets or Latino markets.  Occasionally bars in major tourist areas such as Las Vegas will make caesars if you ask.  Mott’s also sells a special ‘Caesar Rimmer’ to garnish your glasses but regular celery salt works just as well.

Bloody Caesar Cocktail

Makes 2 drinks – can easily be doubled

  • 3 oz. vodka
  • 2 X 1/4 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
  • 8 dashes tabasco sauce (more or less, to taste)
  • About 2 cups clamato juice or spicy clamato juice
  • 1 Tablespoon celery salt
  • 2 lime wedges
  • 2 celery sticks for garnish (optional)
  • Ice cubes
  1. Pour celery salt onto a small plate.  Cut a small slit in one of the lime wedges and run the wedge around the edge of two highball glasses to moisten the rim.  Dip the rim into the celery salt, turning the glass until the entire rim is coated with salt. Repeat with the second glass.
  2. Place a few ice cubes into each glass.  To each glass, add 1-1/2 oz. vodka, 1/4 teaspoon worcestershire sauce, a few drops of tabasco and top with clamato juice.  Stir until thoroughly mixed.  
  3. Garnish with lime wedges and celery sticks.

Cheers and Happy Victoria Day Weekend to all my Canadian readers!





Donairs

13 05 2009

 

A Nova Scotia-style donair in a pita

A homemade Nova Scotia-style donair in a pita

Donairs are a popular fast food in Canada’s Maritime provinces, particularly in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  It’s a local interpretation of a classic Turkish doner kebab. Donairs are made with spiced meat and served with a sweet-garlicky sauce in pitas, on pizzas or in submarine-style sandwiches.  My grandmother was quite fond of donairs and would sometimes take us to the local Pizza Delight so she could have one.  You can even buy donair ‘kits’ of meat, sauce and pitas in some Maritime grocery stores and I would take one to her house on occasion for a donair lunch.  I have also seen the kits in the frozen section of Sobey’s stores in Toronto.  However, it’s pretty easy to make a reasonable version at home and doesn’t require anything too exotic – most of the ingredients should be available at the supermarket.  It may not be quite the same as your favourite take-out donair but it will do in a pinch until your next trip down East!

Nova Scotia-Style Donairs

Makes 6 donair pitas

Sauce

  • 300 ml (10 fl oz) can sweetened condensed milk (about 1-1/4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

Donair Meat

  • 1 lb. (500 g) ground beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1 teaspoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon mild paprika
  • 2 teaspoons water

For Assembly

  • 6 Greek style pitas (without a pocket)
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1-1/2 cups grated mozzarella
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons canola or safflower oil
  • 6 pieces of foil to wrap pitas

To Make Sauce:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk with vinegar and garlic powder.  Stir with a spoon until mixture is thoroughly combined and thick.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

To Make Donair Meat:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, combine ground beef with all seasonings, flour and water.  Using your (clean!) hands, mix until the spices are evenly distributed through the beef.
  3. Press meat mixture into a standard size loaf pan and press down well so it is quite compact.  Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the meat is just cooked through the middle.  Do not overcook or it will be dry.
  4. Let meat cool and prepare ingredients to assemble pitas.  Meat can be baked in advance and refrigerated until use.

To Assemble Pitas:

  1. Slice meat into thin slices.  Heat a skillet and add a small amount of oil.  Brown slices of meat briefly, until heated through. Heat pita breads in a dry skillet, the oven or on a countertop grill.  
  2. Place each pita on a square of foil.  On each one, layer grated mozzarella, some meat slices, diced tomato, onion and a spoonful of sauce.  Wrap in foil and serve.

Warning: These donairs are very garlicky!  Avoid social situations and vampires after eating.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!